A new project aimed at building links between people who are recovering from alcohol and drug abuse with their local community has been launched in Sheffield.
REC-CONNECT is a city-wide collaboration developed to help those in recovery from alcohol and drug problems access activities and services in their local areas by forging relationships with the people at the very heart of those communities, who will be known as “community connectors”.
The community connectors will help the service users access activities or groups that they might previously have dismissed - despite their interest - due to lack of confidence, concern about stigma or knowledge of how to get involved. These could include anything from fishing clubs to local libraries and knitting groups to cafes.
The volunteer community connectors are currently being recruited from existing recovery services as well as the general public.
The project is being championed by a number of stakeholder organisations across the city including Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust (SHSC), Sheffield Alcohol Support Service, Addaction and Phoenix Futures. It is funded by The Health Foundation.
The organisations have identified 134 groups, services or activities across the city - known as “community assets” - with which the community connectors can encourage those in recovery to attend. Linking people in with these groups will help to re-engage them in positive activities and support their recovery journeys.
The launch for REC-CONNECT was held at Sheffield Hallam University’s Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice (HKC).
Professor David Best, head of criminology at the HKC, said: “The REC-CONNECT project is aimed at making the most of those activities and services that already exist in our local communities and making sure they are accessible to people in recovery.
“Attending a new group or different part of the city can be intimidating, particularly for those on the recovery pathway. This project will aim to break down that barrier by putting the service users in touch with individuals who can take them to those groups or activities and support them through the most difficult part - getting through the door. Linking people in with these groups will help to re-engage them in positive activities and will support their recovery journeys.
“Importantly, the community connectors will already have relationships with people at the community assets, meaning they can help avoid any potentially uncomfortable situations for the service users.
“This is a pilot project for the recovery community - but the idea behind it could apply to any number of isolated groups to encourage integration, so we’re really looking forward to getting started and evaluating the results.”
Dr Ruta Rele, Consultant Psychiatrist from SHSC, said: “The community connectors project will be an exciting part of the recovery journey for our clients and attempts to fill a gap that exists after completing treatment successfully.
“Recovery from addiction is not just about tackling the symptoms of dependence but enabling the person to re-connect with their community—only then will their recovery will be sustained .
“People with addiction problems can end up getting quite isolated from society in general –the community connectors’ project attempts to help make the process of re-connecting bit easier and possible. As some of the community connectors will be people in recovery themselves, they will be powerful messengers to say ‘recovery is possible!’”.